UNION SQUARE — Mayor Bill de Blasio's proposed changes to citywide zoning doesn't demand enough of developers and would push the middle class out of Manhattan, residents argued at a public forum Monday night.
The heated discussion on Monday centered around two major zoning changes that would effect the entire city: Mandatory Inclusionary Housing — which would require developers to build affordable housing with each project - and Zoning for Quality and Affordability — which would change restrictions and allow for more flexibility with building construction with the goal of creating more housing for seniors.
In the nearly three hours of public testimony by 55 Manhattan residents at the Community Board 4 meeting with Borough President Gale Brewer, just a handful people voiced support for the proposed zoning changes.
"While both objectives of both proposals are to be lauded, they are too timid," said Christine Berthet, chair of CB 4, summing up her district's troubles with the two proposals.
Berthet cited the fact that senior housing constructed under the proposed changes would expire after 30 years, that the zoning doesn't provide equal access to building amenities for all tenants and that affordable units would have to be distributed only throughout 50 percent of a building's floor space effectively segregating subsidized tenants in certain parts of the building.
"Poor floors," Joe Restuccia, a member of Community Board 4 and an affordable housing developer called them. "It pushes people to lower floors and that’s not appropriate."
While in the hot real estate market in Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen, developers often consent to build 30 percent affordable units, the mayor's proposal would only require them to build 25 percent, Restuccia said.
"One size does not fit all," he said. "It is impossible in a city of our scope and our diversity."
Illustrating his point, residents from poorer districts at the meeting expressed concerns that the income brackets subsidized by the plan would speed up gentrification in their neighborhoods because they were too high for the area's residents.
But for those living in Hell's Kitchen and Chelsea, there was a different concern — that higher income families making around $110,000 would fall between the cracks and be pushed out.
"We call for a broad range of options that are tailored by neighborhood," Restuccia said.
As the proposal stands, there are just two options available to Community Board 4, either 25 percent of floor space for families making an average of $46,000 a year or 30 percent reserved for families making an average of $62,150.
A period for public comment opened in September and borough presidents must weigh in before the end of the year. Then the changes get punted to the City Planning Commission and finally to the city council early next year.